KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — People gathered in downtown Kalamazoo and in other nearby communities Monday evening for silent protests of prayer in response to the death of George Floyd.
Protesters began by singing and praying together on the steps of the Kalamazoo County Courthouse.
According to organizer Tami Flick, the peaceful protest was one of several around Kalamazoo County organized by a group of local churches.
Many demonstrators lay face-down on the sidewalk for nine minutes in silent prayer.
Demonstrator Shantae Bolden says it was an attempt to feel what Floyd was feeling just before his death in Minneapolis and pray for change.
“It gave me a fresh perspective of what a young man might have gone through, being down on the ground and being helpless. I put my hands behind my back just to kind of see and I made sure it was uncomfortable for me,” Bolden said.
Demonstrator Andrew Melendez says it was important that everything remain peaceful and wanted to avoid the violent protests seen in other cities.
“Systematical oppression has been happening for so long in this country and this nation and we don’t condone it, obviously, but we understand the hurt and the cry of the people,” Melendez said.
Before the protest started, a business across the street boarded up its windows as a precaution.
The Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety said it enhanced police presence in the area near the building, Bronson Park and a parking lot near 700 Park Street. News 8 crews saw police across the street from the demonstration downtown and no confrontations with the protesters. KDPS said it had had been communicating with group leaders, who said the protests would not be violent — and they weren’t.
Kalamazoo Mayor David Anderson took part in the demonstration and is calling for similar protests to remain peaceful.
“I’m going to believe that’s not going to happen in Kalamazoo. I don’t think that is Kalamazoo and I don’t think that’s going to get us anywhere, so I am hoping and trusting and praying for (people to) please support us to do the work we need to do and let’s start with something. Let’s not burn it down,” Anderson said.